I’ve been gently pondering and I’ve had an idea. Not a new idea, as my daughter has pointed out, but an idea all the same. Why are there so many unoccupied homes and offices nationwide when there are homeless people and people on housing waiting lists nationwide too? Why can’t the two be married together to create affordable housing for the people that need it? Would this be impossible? I may be thinking about this entirely wrong but it does seem to be a pretty simple concept really.
If some of the perfectly sound empty buildings you can see everywhere were to be rented out to homeless people on a short term tenancy, surely this could ease the homelessness problem and give beleaguered councils and Housing Associations time and money to help them build more suitable permanent social housing for the people that need it.
Not only that, but it could protect the abandoned buildings and save them from becoming crumbling ruins and local eyesores. What is to stop people from being able to live comfortably in these places? Surely a building that is occupied by someone who has no home of their own is better than a building that is unoccupied and falling into disrepair. A type of live-in nightwatchman or caretaker discouraging squatters from taking up residence or dealers and addicts from using the property as a drug-den.
Granted, a lot of these buildings belong to private corporations or individuals and are not council or publicly owned properties, but surely it can’t be beyond the realm of possibility for a local authority to come up with a way of working collaboratively with owners to create basic living spaces and let them out to the people that are in desperate need of them. I’m not talking about swanky penthouses or ultra-fashionable urban accommodation, just serviceable places with watertight roofs and lockable front doors. Places where individuals or families could live safely until something more permanent can be found. It has to be better than life on the street or the cramped, dirty, smelly bed and breakfast places where many homeless people have no choice but to live now.
And there could be added fringe benefits as well. Employment opportunities for many. People would be needed to do some basic work to convert these buildings into places where others can live. Electricians would be needed to check out potentially dangerous wiring and make it safe, plumbers would be needed to make sure that toilets worked and install shower rooms and washing facilities, carpenters would be needed to make sure floors and ceilings were sound, glaziers would be needed to replace broken windows. Work experience and apprenticeship opportunities for the budding tradesmen and tradeswomen of the future. Turning old and abandoned buildings into reasonable homes for people that have nowhere to live could turn into a win win situation for all.
So how about it? Isn’t this an idea that is worth thinking about if nothing else? Is there a local authority or an MP who is will to put their head above the parapet and try it. It has to be better than doing nothing and it might just work. Housing Co-operatives came into existence last time there was a major housing crisis in this country. Maybe this is a follow-on to that idea. Maybe this is the way forward. Maybe this is the future.